/The future of the US workforce will rely on AI, but don’t count human workers out just yet

The future of the US workforce will rely on AI, but don’t count human workers out just yet

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: The key word in the title of this article is “yet”. Once AI learns all the tricks about how to act as a human, we will be out.

Image for illustration purposes only. Source: Futurizonte Media Library.

Original author and publication date: Katherine Newman – October 24, 2019

Artificial intelligence has replaced many skills in recent years – including the skills needed to do some human jobs.

The tech revolution has not gone unnoticed by American workers. A 2018 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans believe AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has sounded the alarm, raising the prospect that millions are at risk for long-term joblessness.

I’m an expert on labor markets in the U.S., and I believe that AI will undoubtedly change the future of U.S. labor—but Yang is also exaggerating the impact AI will have on the workforce.

The solution to job loss sparked by automation lies less in Yang’s guaranteed income proposal, and more in reskilling the labor force, a process that would involve educating workers to do the jobs a more automated economy will require.

Growing industries

MIT economist Frank Levy has noted that AI generally automates parts of occupations rather than the whole job.

For example, people process information at work, while computers can only execute instructions. Even jobs that have shrunk because of automation include components that require human judgment.

This is why there are still occupations like customer service agents, even as automated processes have learned to handle many routine transactions.

Predictive models, which lie at the heart of AI, are never right all the time. Incidents that fall outside the boundaries of ordinary or routine decisions—for example, legal cases – have to be handled by people who can make complex decisions.

This means that low-skill jobs, the ones that can truly be replaced because they follow the same routines, are likely to disappear, while middle- and high-skill jobs are likely to grow.

But the results are not always easy to predict. For example, many bank tellers have been replaced by ATMs. But this development has lowered the cost of running a bank branch so profoundly that banks are sprouting on every corner in most major cities.

As a result of these two countervailing forces, the number of tellers has actually stayed roughly constant since the invention of the ATM, mainly because they were needed to service the nonroutine aspects of customer service in a growing number of branches.

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